Mad Men, Season 3

Week 1: Pete vs. Ken
Talking television.
Aug. 17 2009 10:08 AM

Mad Men, Season 3

VIEW ALL ENTRIES

Week 1: Pete vs. Ken

I hate to disappoint you, John, but I don't think Don will be dreaming up Dunkin's "time to make the donuts" campaign this season: The slogan was first used in 1982. Maybe Season 4 will start in the early '80s, with a wizened Don hitting on a grown-up Sally's grad school friends?

Let's hope not. Season 3, it turns out, begins somewhere in the spring of 1963, six or seven months after we last left our characters. This is an underwhelming jump of the chronological needle, given the secrecy surrounding when the season would be set. But let's count our blessings. For one thing, the time frame raises the intriguing possibility that Weiner—who has set Mad Men's two season finales thus far during two momentous historical events, the 1960 election and the Cuban missile crisis—will close out Season 3 with the assassination of JFK. (Anybody want to bet an old-fashioned on it?) More delightfully, the time shift lets us witness the fallout of Sterling Cooper's takeover by PPL.

Julia Turner Julia Turner

Julia Turner is the editor in chief of Slate and a regular on Slate's Culture Gabfest podcast.

Advertisement

This British invasion has given us two sensational new villains: the wry, canny, axe-wielding Lane Pryce (played by Jared Harris, who's so good it makes me regret not watching his other show, Fringe), and his officious secretary John Hooker, whom Peggy has nicknamed Moneypenny. Were you as surprised as I was when Joan defended Hooker after Peggy mocked him, even managing, later that day, to finagle him an office? I couldn't decide whether she was sincere. She might be looking out for Hooker because she relates professionally to another top-dog underling or because, with her slightly old-fashioned take on gender dynamics (she is still engaged, after all), she genuinely believes a male secretary, unlike a female one, deserves an office and a "girl." But maybe she was just setting him up for the dressing-down he receives at the episode's end.

Pryce, meanwhile, deftly creates what may be the show's best rivalry yet, firing someone called Burt Peterson—is there a Mad Men term for "redshirt"?—and making Pete Campbell and Ken Cosgrove co-heads of Accounts. There was so much to savor here, I couldn't decide what I liked best: Pete's spastic dance of victory when he believes the prize gig is his alone; the tight close-up on his rage-glazed eyes when he learns he must share the title with Ken; Ken's implacable amiability in their confrontation after the meeting to divvy up accounts. Perhaps most tantalizing was the suggestion that Ken—who had the self-possession to ask what the new position paid before accepting it—might be better than Pete at the job. I wonder how far Weiner will take this notion that Pete's seething ambition is a handicap, while Ken's blithe affability is an asset that may bring untold success. Ken has thus far been more a foil than a character—his triumphs have made the boys jealous in the past—and I hope this plotline pushes him to the fore. And I must ask: Is it possible here not to be rooting for Ken?

Before I turn this over to Patrick, though, I want to defend the Baltimore plotline. You're right, John, that the incredible cockblocking fire alarm and Don's urgent response to it were absurd. (Maybe fire drills were less common then? I found myself thinking, lamely. So they know it's a real fire?) At the very least, poor Sal should have got some before he got caught. But I loved Sal's amazement at Don's effortless dinner-table lies—was he repulsed or did he wish he was as handy with an alter ego? And the weakness of Don's "Limit Your Exposure" flasher campaign—which did seem an odd fit for stodgy London Fog—didn't bother me, since that speech was all about the moment that preceded it. Don says to Sal, "Can I ask you something?" Sal looks stricken, knowing what Don saw the night before, waiting for an inquisition. And then Don just makes the pitch. The slogan itself is just patter underscoring the palpable relief on Salvatore's face. If there's one thing Don understands and respects, it's a secret. He's kept Peggy's, and he'll keep Sal's, too.

Patrick, I'll leave you to field John's question about whether Don hesitated before putting the moves on that stewardess. (I think he may have, but perhaps, like me, he was just trying to figure out why she looked so much like Kate Bosworth.)

Ready for cross-check,
Julia

TODAY IN SLATE

The World

The Budget Disaster that Sabotaged the WHO’s Response to Ebola

Are the Attacks in Canada a Sign of ISIS on the Rise in the West?

PowerPoint Is the Worst, and Now It’s the Latest Way to Hack Into Your Computer

Is It Offensive When Kids Use Bad Words for Good Causes?

Fascinating Maps Based on Reddit, Craigslist, and OkCupid Data

Culturebox

The Real Secret of Serial

What reporter Sarah Koenig actually believes.

Culturebox

The Actual World

“Mount Thoreau” and the naming of things in the wilderness.

In Praise of 13th Grade: Why a Fifth Year of High School Is a Great Idea

Can Democratic Sen. Mary Landrieu Pull Off One More Louisiana Miracle?

  News & Politics
Politics
Oct. 23 2014 3:55 PM Panda Sluggers Democrats are in trouble. Time to bash China.
  Business
Business Insider
Oct. 23 2014 2:36 PM Take a Rare Peek Inside the Massive Data Centers That Power Google
  Life
Outward
Oct. 23 2014 5:08 PM Why Is an Obscure 1968 Documentary in the Opening Credits of Transparent?
  Double X
The XX Factor
Oct. 23 2014 11:33 AM Watch Little Princesses Curse for the Feminist Cause
  Slate Plus
Working
Oct. 23 2014 11:28 AM Slate’s Working Podcast: Episode 2 Transcript Read what David Plotz asked Dr. Meri Kolbrener about her workday.
  Arts
Brow Beat
Oct. 23 2014 5:08 PM What Happens When You Serve McDonald’s to Food Snobs and Tell Them It’s Organic
  Technology
Technology
Oct. 23 2014 4:36 PM Vampire Porn Mindgeek is a cautionary tale of consolidating production and distribution in a single, monopolistic owner.
  Health & Science
Science
Oct. 23 2014 5:42 PM Seriously, Evolution: WTF? Why I love the most awkward, absurd, hacked-together species.
  Sports
Sports Nut
Oct. 20 2014 5:09 PM Keepaway, on Three. Ready—Break! On his record-breaking touchdown pass, Peyton Manning couldn’t even leave the celebration to chance.